On Sept. 7, in two games just 30 miles apart, both DeMatha and Gonzaga suffered blowout losses at the hands of national powers St. Joseph’s and St. Peter’s Prep, respectively, in what served as hard but necessary wake-up calls. Since then, neither team has lost, setting the two teams on a collision course for Friday’s game at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex — a contest that some see as a potential preview of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship.
“We played some tough competition early, and while we would’ve liked to have done better against them, it helped us come together as a defense and a team,” Gonzaga defensive back Miles Taylor said.
“As a senior, I’m not trying to lose any more games,” Dematha wide receiver Cameron Phillips said.
Though DeMatha is a favorite in the rankings, Gonzaga has controlled the series of late, winning four of the last five meetings. Both teams are fueled by strong rushing attacks, but the task in slowing down the backfield will prove different for each defense. Power and speed characterize DeMatha’s rushers, who have totaled 1,725 yards and 22 touchdowns. Meantime, the ability of Robbie Walker to line up as a slot receiver often allows Gonzaga to have him and junior playmaker Reggie Corbin on the field at the same time. The Eagles duo racked up 235 yards and four scores to help make up for the absence of quarterback Nick Johns (shoulder injury) in last week’s win against O’Connell. Johns is expected to miss Friday’s game, meaning sophomore Matthew Mulligan will step in again against DeMatha’s strong defense.
“Matt’s done a real nice job in practice and as a leader,” Walker said. “The biggest thing for all of us is not making mistakes. The team with the least amount of turnovers will win the game.”
For Gonzaga, that means continuing the all-around play that’s yielded shutouts in its last two games. For DeMatha, that will entail being able to counter with an explosive offense that’s scored 110 points in its last two wins.
“We know both teams can get it done on offense and defense, so things like special teams and penalties will be big,” Phillips said. “We’ve been playing well, but if you ask me, we could always do better. We know what’s at stake here, so we just have to keep taking care of business.”